#6 Process Improvement Lesson Learned for BD
(6) Carefully research potential teaming partners to find companies with the best qualifications.
In identifying potential prime (or subcontracting) teaming partners, leveraging your network or pool of current strategic partners is a logical first step. However, additional homework may be required. If your existing relationships don’t include any companies that would bring value to a teaming partnership for a specific opportunity, then do some research to expand your partnerships and find companies with the best qualifications for that opportunity. For example, if your long-standing teaming partner has a great reputation and past performance at HUD, then that partner may not be the best choice for teaming on an opportunity at DoD.
In the case of identifying prime contracting partners, use the following criteria:
CUSTOMER INTIMACY: How well does the potential prime know the customer? Do they have an understanding of the customer environment and requirements? Do they have a good reputation / advocacy with the customer?
CUSTOMER PAST PERFORMANCE: This goes hand in hand with obtaining customer intimacy, but goes beyond the experience and understanding piece, based on HOW WELL they have been performing work for this customer. BTW it is possible to be performing well, but not have the advocacy from all stakeholders within the organization. Many companies get a bad rep for having what it takes to meet and exceed requirements with quality work, but lose cred by being arrogant and acting like they know more than their customer. Not good.
CORPORATE PROCESSES, CLEARANCE LEVELS, CERTIFICATIONS: This mainly comes in play when evaluating Small Business primes, as many SBs may not have what is required in these areas. Still, with Large Businesses, it is telling to see their corporate commitment in these areas, and how much they have invested in the company to distinguish themselves from the competition through this infrastructure.
PRICE-TO-WIN STRATEGY: Do they know how to be competitive WRT pricing in the target / local market (i.e., at the place of performance)? How do you tell? What other contracts have they won or lost against the competition for that customer? Most pricing evaluations are consistent across contracts within a government agency.
IN-HOUSE PROPOSAL SUPPORT: Again, another factor for evaluating SB primes, but in either case, you don't want to get stuck with writing or managing the proposal for your prime! (unless you have cut a sweet deal on workshare and part of that deal is the proposal "lift" you've agreed to take on)
ACTIVE CAPTURE: How long has the potential prime been tracking the opportunity? How long have they been preparing to win it through capture and proposal planning activities? If you brought the opportunity to their attention, then you should consider other primes.
Some sources of information that can be used in your research to determine customer intimacy and past performance (or other teaming qualifications, such as business size, socio-economic certifications, contract vehicles held, etc.) include:
- FPDS: GSA’s Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) – Next Generation includes Reports for the Top 100 Contractors by Department (Excel spreadsheets), based on total contract dollars awarded. You can refer to this list for the targeted opportunity’s Department to get a sense of the most successful contractors for your potential customers.
- USASPENDING.GOV: USASPENDING.GOV is a publicly available database of historical spending by the U.S. Government that shows specific contractors who have won contracts with the targeted agency, including set-asides. You can use the simple Keyword Search, or the Advanced Search feature to filter data by time period, award type, location, recipient, recipient type, award amount, NAICS Code, Type of Set-Aside, etc.
- GovernmentContractsWon: GovernmentContractsWon.com is a specific resource for DoD contractor teaming partner research, and can be searched using Defense Contractors by Name, Zip Code, City, County, State and Defense Contracts by Product/Service, Weapon System, Place of Performance, and Contracting Office.
- GSA eLibrary: If you are seeking a GSA schedule holder (because you have learned that the acquisition strategy includes use of one of the GSA schedules as the contract vehicle), then you can you can visit the GSA eLibrary to get the latest GSA contract award information. You can either search by company name using the A-Z Contractor Directory to find all GSA Schedule awards by company, or you can search by Schedule and SIN to identify all contractors who have awards for the selected schedule / SIN using the Cross-Schedule Search.
- DSBS: SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) Database is a great resource when researching small businesses with specific socio-economic certifications. You can search on small businesses by location, Government certification, Quality Assurance standards, size, NAICS Code, etc. Or you can search for a specific profile if you know the Company Name, DUNS Number, CAGE Code, etc.
- Agency Vendor Databases and Agency-Published Prime Contractors Lists: Many agencies provide access to vendor databases and/or publish a list of their prime contractors. These can usually be found on-line, but the agency’s Small Business Office can help provide this information as well.
- Bid-Specific Interested Bidders Lists: Many agencies provide a list of interested bidders on-line, or indirectly via Industry Day attendance lists. Note that not all companies listed may be seriously bidding, or are even qualified (beware the bid protest lawyers and consultants looking for work who add their names to the list or attend industry events). Most often, these lists are not the most valuable source of accurate data on who’s bidding, but they do provide some interesting intel on occasion.
- Bid Search Tool Company Profiles: Finally, many commercially available bid search tools provide a “one stop shopping” feature that provides an integrated view of the information available from many of the free tools referenced above. If you have access to one of these tools, then it is the easiest and quickest way to find out everything you could possibly want to know about potential teaming partners.
There are many other resources available – including Grant Thornton Government Contractor Surveys, Dun & Bradstreet Ratings, Internet Searches, and good old-fashioned Networking. Doing research on specific companies is relatively easy…..vetting these companies to determine if they are the right fit for you as a business partner is a bit more complicated. Stay tuned for Capture Management Process Improvement Lesson Learned #6 to learn more.